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Studies Suggest Link Between Lack of Sleep & Dementia

By Jonathan Wells, 11:27 pm on

Sleep is essential for good brain function. During waking hours, toxins and waste products accumulate in the brain, and are then removed during sleep. Chronic lack of sleep may therefore be harmful to brain health because it exposes the brain to chronically high levels of toxins. Today, the Douglas County dementia care experts at Home Care Assistance are going to take a look at this relationship and provide tips for how families can help their aging loved ones enjoy a good night’s rest.

Sleep and Alzheimer’s

A study published in 2014 found that sleep disturbances at age 70 were linked to a higher risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep disturbances at age 50 were not linked to an increased risk of dementia, but were associated with hypertension and diabetes. In this study, men were enrolled at age 50 and then followed up for around 40 years. Other long-term studies have shown similar results, linking sleep disturbances of seniors to a greatly increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Sleep and Seniors

Seniors need about an hour less of sleep per night than younger people. Despite this fact, many seniors suffer from sleep deprivation. Seniors tend to sleep less deeply and wake up frequently throughout the night. Many seniors also experience a change in their body clocks that causes them to fall asleep early and wake early, which can be disruptive to normal daily life. As a result, many seniors feel the need to take stimulants such as caffeine to stay awake later in the evening, but continue to wake up early in the morning.

Treatment

The authors of the 2014 study cited above stated that their findings suggested a possible way to reduce the risk of dementia in seniors – if sleep disturbances can be treated instead of brushed off as part of aging, perhaps the risk of dementia can be reduced substantially.

Fortunately, sleep problems can be treated quite easily for some seniors. For example, some seniors cannot sleep well due to untreated pain. In these cases, speaking with a doctor, determining the cause of the pain, and seeing if there are any medications that can be prescribed to counteract the pain can aid in comfortable sleep. Others simply need to be encouraged to be more active, to avoid napping and to avoid consuming caffeine.

If you are unable to provide this type of support or care for an aging loved one, learn more about Douglas County part-time home care from Home Care Assistance. A professional and compassionate caregiver can be scheduled on an as-needed basis, and can assist with a senior’s evening routine. By assisting with dinner preparation, personal care and getting into bed safely and comfortably, the caregiver can help promote sleep for your aging loved one. To learn more about our caregivers and how they can help seniors in the morning, evenings and any time in-between, call 720-441-3522 and schedule a complimentary, no-obligation consultation with a friendly Care Manager.